By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has denied claims that his actions are tainted by ethnic sentiment.
President Buhari, who made this clarification on Thursday night when he hosted members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the presidential villa, Abuja, said that his political struggles taught him a lesson that removed sectional considerations from his worldview.
The president also explained reasons why he is not always in a haste to take certain decisions.
The group was led by the party chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, who encouraged the president to seek re-election in 2019.
Defending himself against those who view him as a tribalist, Buhari dismissed insinuations that he favoured northerners in his appointment, pointing out that despite the fact that he did not get plenty of votes in the South East, he still appointed four substantive ministers from the region when compared to the North where he won overwhelming, yet seven states in the region have junior ministers.
“There is something that hit me very hard and I am happy I hit it back at somebody. Seven states of the North are only represented in my cabinet by junior ministers, ministers of state. In the South East, I got 198,000 votes but I have four substantive ministers and seven junior ministers from there.
“You are closer to the people than me now that I have been locked up here; don’t allow anybody to talk of ethnicity. It is not true.”
He stated his ordeals in the courts disabused his mind in a dispassionate way about ethnicity and religion across the country.
He explained: “You know that tribunal for presidential election started at Court of Appeal. The president was my classmate. I missed only four of the court sittings.
“For that first phase, 2003, we were in court for 30 months. My legal leader was Chief Ahamba (SAN), an Igbo man. He asked the panel of judges to direct INEC to produce the voter register to prove to you that the election was done underground.
“When they came to write the judgement, they completely omitted that. Another Igbo man, a Roman Catholic in the panel of judges, wrote a minority report.
“I went to the Supreme Court. Who was the chief justice? An Hausa-Fulani, a Muslim from Zaria. After 27 months, Ahamba presented our case for two hours and 45 minutes. The chief justice got up and said they were going on break and when they return the following day, they will deliver the judgement.
“They went away for three months. That was what made it 30 months. And when they came back, they discussed my case within 45 minutes.
“In 2007, who was the chief justice? A Muslim from Niger State. The third one, who was the chief justice? My neighbour from Jigawa State; the same religion and the same tribe.”
For those who criticise him for being too slow, the president said he always reflects on historical antecedents before taking decisions.
He said, “I felt I should invite you to tell you that as I am sitting here, I am very much aware of the problems in this country and that I will always reflect on the historical antecedents before I arrived here.
“I keep telling people that while I was in uniform, quite reckless and young, I got all the ministers and governors and put them in Kirikiri. I said they were guilty until they could prove their innocence. I was also detained, too.
“I decided to drop the uniform and come back. Eventually, I am here. So really, I have gone through it over and over again. This is why I am not in a hurry virtually to do anything. I will sit and reflect and continue with my clear conscience.”
He thanked his party members for honouring his invitation, adding that he had not forgotten the support they have given him since 2003 when he stated his presidency quest.
Speaking on the factors that helped him win the presidency on the fourth attempt, he attributed it to the determination of the people and technology in the form of the Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs).
The president further stated that he was shocked that former President Goodluck Jonathan called him to concede defeat after the presidential election in 2015.
“Voter education is important. Let people be educated that it is their right to choose leaders of their choice,” Buhari said.
“The PVCs worked well in 2015. That was why when the former president rang me, I went temporarily into a coma. I will never forget the time. It was quartet after 5pm and he said he called to congratulate me and that he had conceded defeat. He asked if I heard him and I said yes and I thanked him for his statesmanship.
“The truth is, after being a deputy governor, a governor, vice president and president for six years, that he took that decision is great. He could have caused some problems. He had stayed long enough to cause problems,” he stated.
On his part, the APC chairman corroborated the president’s position that he was not guided by sectional leaning, adding that the president’s speech showed that he felt the pain of the masses.
“I was very touched by what you said. I hope it is understood in the proper perspective. It indicates quite clearly that you have listened to what people are saying. It has been such a terrible misrepresentation. You have seized this opportunity to say that you are not what people are saying,” Oyegun said.
“There is so much misconception. Look at the example you have given that those who stood by you through the periods of problems and struggles were not people of the same religious persuasion.
“You have said it that you are not an ethnic jingoist. I know this because I have known you for a very long time.
“For some of us, when these things are said, we find it painful but I hope there will be proper rendition of what you said today and it will start clearing the air.”
Oyegun noted that President Buhari had a most challenging 2017 in every respect, including his son’s predicament.
“It is our prayer that all the struggles you have been through, all the efforts you have put in for this country, the mind that you have to improve the lot of the ordinary man of this country, that we will begin to see results in 2018 and see the essence of the man, Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
According to the APC chairman, for almost three years, the president has been toiling to reconstruct the broken foundations of the country.
“You have laboured to put a new infrastructure without which development is impossible.
“They (the past leaders from PDP) were just dipping hands in the treasury; the banks were just changing papers and collecting commissions and we all said we were developing and prospering. But it was not a development that touched the ordinary man of this country.
“For the first time, that is about to begin. It has taken three years of foundation laying and, thank God, the harvesting, I believe, is going to begin this year.
“It is my hope that it will come early enough for people to see that if one has to call anybody the architect of a modern Nigeria, you will bear that distinction.”
According to Oyegun, even though the president would not be able to finish all that he started, he was installing the fundamentals on which the country will grow.
“Like I said when we were launching the book of your achievements, what you started, you cannot complete – that is a matter of fact. But what you started is basic; it is fundamental that Nigerians must learn a new way of doing business based on their sweat from which profit will come based on their resources.
“When we are used to doing things wrongly, change becomes very difficult and we are passing through that stage now,” he noted, adding that it is not a struggle that can be completed in four or even eight years.
The APC boss reiterated the party’s firm support for President Buhari’s administration and urged him to go for second term.
“We are firmly, totally and completely behind you and when you make up your mind (soon as I hope you will), you will find an army behind you. Those who wish you well are already working and it is my hope that you will agree eventually that continuity is important and critical. Otherwise, all what you have struggled for will come to nothing,” he stated.
Politicians Dividing Nigeria For Selfish Reasons – Amosun
Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, has accused certain politicians of causing disunity in the country for selfish reasons.
Speaking at the 2018 media workshop for the State House Press Corps in Abeokuta, Ogun State, he called on the media to project more of the things that unite than divide Nigerians ahead of the 2019 general elections at this time that peaceful coexistence is so much needed
He added that there is no nation that is without challenges but projecting inflammatory remarks will hamper development, urging that things that will threaten the peace of the nation should be played down but not at the expense of not telling those in power where they are missing it.
According to him, politicians use dichotomy, religion and ethnicity when it suits them, but he urged the media ignore such people.
Amosun said, “You are the people who see the entire Nigeria. These are trying times really; these are challenging times and it is good to see people who are still doing their jobs professionally.
“I want to challenge you to do more. I like the theme of your workshop, but after deliberations share the outcomes with others so that we can learn. Share your thoughts with us; use your platforms to tell us the truth.
“Write what you see because for me criticism is part of what a leader needs once it is in good faith. For me when you say it the way it is even though sometimes we may not like it, but we can look at it and see how we can do it better, I believe if we all do that Nigeria will be better for it.
“I like the theme of your workshop which is theme: “The Role of The Media in Peace Building: 2019 in Perspective”, and for me one word that stands out which we need right now is peace. That is why I said earlier that these are challenging times and you need to write more on those things that unite us than those things that fragment and divide us.
“There is no nation without its challenges; it is the way we manage our challenges really that matters. When we have issues we should not come out and say what will inflame the country or through write ups and comments, I think we should talk more on those things that unite us.
“Our diversity and population is our strength; this should strengthen, not weaken us.”
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